Rhetoric and Hermeneutics in Our Time

Rhetoric and Hermeneutics in Our Time: A Reader

Walter Jost
Michael J. Hyde
Copyright Date: 1997
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 400
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  • Book Info
    Rhetoric and Hermeneutics in Our Time
    Book Description:

    This thought-provoking book initiates a dialogue among scholars in rhetoric and hermeneutics in many areas of the humanities. Twenty leading thinkers explore the ways these two powerful disciplines inform each other and influence a wide variety of intellectual fields. Walter Jost and Michael J. Hyde organize pivotal topics in rhetoric and hermeneutics with originality and coherence, dividing their book into four sections: Locating the Disciplines; Inventions and Applications; Arguments and Narratives; and Civic Discourse and Critical Theory.Contributors to this volume include Hans-Georg Gadamer (one of whose pieces is here translated into English for the first time), Paul Ricoeur, Gerald L. Bruns, Charles Altieri, Richard E. Palmer, Calvin O. Schrag,.Victoria Kahn, Eugene Garver, Michael Leff, Nancy S. Streuver, Wendy Olmsted, David Tracy, Donald G. Marshall, Allen Scult, Rita Copeland, William Rehg, and Steven Mailloux.For readers across the humanities, the book demonstrates the usefulness of rhetorical and hermeneutic approaches in literary, philosophical, legal, religious, and political thinking. With its stimulating new perspectives on the revival and interrelation of both rhetoric and hermeneutics, this collection is sure to serve as a benchmark for years to come.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14644-8
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Prologue
    (pp. xi-xxiv)

    At mid-century E. R. Curtius, adverting to the study of rhetoric in his magisterialEuropean Literature and the Latin Middle Ages, boldly pronounced not only that “as an independent subject, it has long since vanished from the curriculum” but that “in our culture, rhetoric has no place.”¹ Only a few years later, related sentiments were expressed by the Oxford scholar C. S. Lewis. Lewis was, among other things, a Renaissance specialist for whom the modern ignorance of rhetoric as a subject of study presented the single greatest obstacle to our properly approaching the literature of the distant past.² For Lewis,...

  4. Introduction: Rhetoric and Hermeneutics: Places Along the Way
    (pp. 1-42)
    Walter Jost and Michael J. Hyde

    Our purpose in this introduction is twofold. On the one hand we propose several ways in which rhetoric and hermeneutics might support each other—that is, contribute to thinking about the philosophic character as well as the practical strategies involved in both interpretation and persuasion. On the other hand we seek to set forth general lines of inquiry and argument that are explored in the chapters that follow and that we hope will stimulate readers of this book to further questions and inquiries of their own.

    As our means of structuring both our chapter and the book as a whole,...

  5. Part I. Locating the Disciplines
    • 1 Rhetoric and Hermeneutics
      (pp. 45-59)
      Hans-Georg Gadamer

      In the context of lectures to the Jungius Society, one could scarcely pick a theme that sounds more inapposite than that of rhetoric and hermeneutics. For what distinguishes Jungius—and not just in the eyes of Leibniz, who entered into genuine partnership with this great pathbreaker of seventeenth-century science—is a decisive departure from dialectical and hermeneutic modes of proceeding and a turn toward empiricism and demonstrative logic (albeit purged of slavish devotion to Aristotle). Jungius was not simply raised in the culture of humanistic pedagogy grounded on dialectic and rhetoric; later he still ascribed it propaedeutic value and viewed...

    • 2 Rhetoric—Poetics—Hermeneutics
      (pp. 60-72)
      Paul Ricoeur

      The difficulty in the theme submitted here for investigation results from the tendency of the three disciplines of the title to overlap with one another to the point that they let themselves be led on by their totalizing aims at covering the entire terrain. What terrain? That of discourse, articulated in configurations with more extended meaning than the sentence. By this restrictive clause, I wish to situate these three disciplines at a higher level than that of the theory of discourse considered within the limits of the sentence. At this level of simplicity, the definition of discourse is not the...

    • 3 On the Tragedy of Hermeneutical Experience
      (pp. 73-89)
      Gerald L. Bruns

      Hermeneutics is made up of a family of questions about what happens in the understanding of anything, not just of texts but of how things are. This is different from the usual question about how to make understanding happen, how toproduceit the way you produce a meaning or a statement where one is missing. For hermeneutics, understanding is not (or not just) of meanings; rather, meaning is, metaphorically, the light that a text sheds on the subject (Sache) that we seek to understand. Think ofSachenot as an object of thought or as the product or goal...

    • 4 Toward a Hermeneutics Responsive to Rhetorical Theory
      (pp. 90-107)
      Charles Altieri

      I would like to begin by quoting Hans-Georg Gadamer and Friedrich Schleiermacher on the connection of rhetoric and hermeneutics. First Gadamer:

      Thus the rhetorical and hermeneutical aspects of human linguisticality interpenetrate each other at every point. There would be no speaker and no such thing as rhetoric if understanding were not the lifeblood of human relationships. There would be no hermeneutical task if there were no loss of agreement between the parties of a “conversation” and no need to seek understanding. The connection between hermeneutics and rhetoric ought to serve, then, to dispel the notion that hermeneutics is somehow restricted...

    • 5 What Hermeneutics Can Offer Rhetoric
      (pp. 108-131)
      Richard E. Palmer

      Rhetoric and hermeneutics today have achieved, as our editors point out in the Prologue, an impressive prominence across disciplines; indeed, they parallel each other in more than influence and multidisciplinary significance. They are parallel generically, they are interwoven historically, and they have experienced a remarkable expansion in theory and self-understanding in the last half of the twentieth century.¹ In each case, however, that expansion has been achieved, for the most part, in isolation from the other. Now it is time to renew old ties and explore what each can offer the other. My aim here is to affirm the desirability...

    • 6 Hermeneutical Circles, Rhetorical Triangles, and Transversal Diagonals
      (pp. 132-146)
      Calvin O. Schrag

      The aim of this essay is to provide a thought experiment on how to maneuver an alliance of hermeneutics with rhetoric. I argue that hermeneutics is delimited by the practice of rhetoric, and in turn both hermeneutics and rhetoric need to be refigured within the space of transversal communication.

      Hermeneutics as theory and practice of interpretation stimulates an economy of meanings, latent as well as manifest, that is at play in texts and actions, in text analogues and action analogues, while it addresses both actual and potential misunderstandings. Hermeneutics constitutes its operating matrix as a part-whole relationship and finds its...

  6. Part II. Inventions and Applications
    • 7 Humanism and the Resistance to Theory
      (pp. 149-170)
      Victoria Kahn

      In a seminal 1982 article Paul de Man claimed that the resistance to theory on the part of conservative literary historians and critics is simply the “displaced symptom” of a resistance to theory at the heart of theory itself.¹ Theory in this second sense is defined as metalanguage that takes as its object the rhetorical or tropological dimension of language which inevitably interferes with the cognitive or semantic functions of grammar and logic. Whereas we ordinarily identify theory with a comprehensive system of axioms and principles of deductive reasoning or with a Kantian epistemological critique of the conditions of the...

    • 8 Rhetoric, Hermeneutics, and Prudence in the Interpretation of the Constitution
      (pp. 171-195)
      Eugene Garver

      Recently I have been listening to the Minnesota legislature debate whether to extend protection against discrimination to homosexuals. Much of the public debate turns on whether homosexuality is a matter of choice or destiny. Politicians, it appears, think that law is subordinate to metaphysics. Former Justice Blackmun was criticized for maintaining that the Supreme Court need not decide the metaphysical question of when human life begins. Had he tried, wouldn’t his arguments have sounded as ridiculous as those of the Minnesota politicians? Should questions of law and justice depend on metaphysics?

      As a practical argument becomes more philosophical, technical, or...

    • 9 Hermeneutical Rhetoric
      (pp. 196-214)
      Michael Leff

      “Hermeneutical rhetoric” is the counterpart of Steven Mailloux’s “rhetorical hermeneutics.” In an article bearing that title and more extensively in his bookRhetorical Power, Mailloux offers an “anti-theory theory” of interpretation that situates literary hermeneutics within the context of rhetorical exchange.¹ Traditional literary theory, Mailloux argues, relies upon a general conception of interpretation as the basis for justifying particular interpretative acts. Such “theory” takes two forms—“textual realism,” where meaning is found in the text, and “readerly idealism,” where meaning is made through intersubjective agreements among a community of interpreters. As theories, these positions are diametrically opposed, but, Mailloux maintains...

    • 10 Subtilitas Applicandi in Rhetorical Hermeneutics: Peirce’s Gloss and Kelly’s Example
      (pp. 215-232)
      Nancy S. Struever

      Hans-Georg Gadamer begins the chapter inTruth and Methodentitled “The Rediscovery of the Hermeneutical Problematic” with a significant tactic: he cites the eighteenth-century Pietist J. J. Rambach’s definition of hermeneutics as tripartite, as asubtilitas intelligendi, explicandi, applicandi, or subtlety in knowing, interpreting, and applying. What is essential in this stipulation of application as faculty are the recognition of the interpreter as agent and the focus on the activity of inquiry: not only does the sense of the object text find its full and concrete form only in interpretation but the interpreter of the text is part of the...

  7. Part III. Arguments and Narratives
    • 11 The Uses of Rhetoric: Indeterminacy in Legal Reasoning, Practical Thinking, and the Interpretation of Literary Figures
      (pp. 235-253)
      Wendy Olmsted

      Interpretive theory has been unsuccessful in finding a system of rules that can be applied in legal reasoning or in the interpretation of literature. Theorists’ aspiration toward such a system of rules and their skepticism that such rules are possible have given rise to much controversy.¹ Rhetoric offers a way out of this impasse because it is an art of reasoning adapted to the particularities of situation and action. This art is reasonable but does not presuppose that, in order to be used intelligently, rules and terms must be determinate (specifiable precisely, repeatable in different situations, and univocal). In fact,...

    • 12 Charity, Obscurity, Clarity: Augustine’s Search for Rhetoric and Hermeneutics
      (pp. 254-274)
      David Tracy

      Rhetoric and hermeneutics have rediscovered each other in our postmodern period. In classical modernity both had seen their range narrowed and their importance as intellectual disciplines denied. Modern rationality felt free to diminish, even dismiss, both rhetoric and hermeneutics because each resisted the famous separations enforced by modernity: thought from feeling (dissociation of sensibility); content from form; theory from practice. Rhetoric could be reduced to issues understood as separate from and unimportant to modern theory: first, practical reason and its topical thinking; second, the forms of thought and the tropes informing all reason; third, the reasonableness of emotions, feelings, moods,...

    • 13 Rhetoric, Hermeneutics, and the Interpretation of Scripture: Augustine to Robert of Basevorn
      (pp. 275-289)
      Donald G. Marshall

      Rhetoric and hermeneutics find common ground in their suspicion of philosophy and grammar. InDe oratoreCicero brings out the complex relations between rhetoric and philosophy by means of a dialogue.¹ When Crassus claims that the orator must possess far-reaching knowledge and culture, Scaevola objects that knowledge is the philosophers’ domain, and they have already demonstrated that orators are ignorant (1.41-44). Crassus replies that this is a familiar theme among the Greeks, but when Plato is eloquent against eloquence, he exhibits a failure of self-comprehension. The orator cannot be potent without having grasped the subject he discusses (1.48). Unlike the...

    • 14 Hermes’ Rhetorical Problem: The Dilemma of the Sacred in Philosophical Hermeneutics
      (pp. 290-310)
      Allen Scult

      The convergence of rhetoric and hermeneutics around what I shall call Hermes’ rhetorical problem is evident in both the tradition of sacred hermeneutics and philosophical hermeneutics after Heidegger.¹ Because philosophical hermeneutics grows out of sacred hermeneutics, which is itself rooted in reflection on the complexities of interpreting Scripture, let us begin with a scriptural passage in which we find an early and influential manifestation of the problematical convergence of rhetoric and hermeneutics.

      Now Moses, tending the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian, drove his flock into the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. An...

  8. Part IV. Civic Discourse and Critical Theory
    • 15 Rhetoric, Hermeneutics, and Ideology-Critique
      (pp. 313-334)
      Hans-Georg Gadamer

      Philosophical hermeneutics takes as its task the opening up of the hermeneutical dimension in its full scope, showing its fundamental significance for our entire understanding of the world and thus for all the various forms in which this understanding manifests itself: from interhuman communication to manipulation of society; from personal experience by the individual in society to the way in which he encounters society; and from the tradition as it is built of religion and law, art and philosophy, to the revolutionary consciousness that unhinges the tradition through emancipatory reflection.

      Despite this vast scope and significance, however, individual explorations necessarily...

    • 16 Rhetoric and the Politics of the Literal Sense in Medieval Literary Theory: Aquinas, Wyclif, and the Lollards
      (pp. 335-357)
      Rita Copeland

      It is well known that late medieval literary theory owes much to Aquinas’s reconciliation of human rhetoric with the divine revelation of truth in the text of Scripture. Aquinas and those theorists who followed his method accomplished this rapprochement by redrawing the boundaries between the literal and the spiritual senses of Scripture and assimilating rhetorical language to the literal sense. Aquinas’s critical move has been much studied for its impact on the exegetical theory and practice of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, especially for its new emphasis on the contributions of human authors to Scriptural discourse. But at what cost...

    • 17 Reason and Rhetoric in Habermas’s Theory of Argumentation
      (pp. 358-377)
      William Rehg

      The late twentieth century presents an especially hostile environment for comprehensive accounts of reason. Precisely at a time when the dangers of social fragmentation and cross-cultural misunderstanding are becoming increasingly evident, the common bases for social integration and rational conflict adjudication seem to be disappearing in a postmodern, multicultural melee. The pluralization of worldviews and disenchantment with grand narratives, the suspicion of hasty ethnocentric generalization, and even the disciplinary specialization of inquiry itself encourage a general retreat into forms of relativism or narrow empiricism. As a result, it has become increasingly difficult to maintain a link between critical social theory,...

    • 18 Articulation and Understanding: The Pragmatic Intimacy Between Rhetoric and Hermeneutics
      (pp. 378-394)
      Steven Mailloux

      In theCratylus, Socrates offers this interpretation of a certain familiar word:

      I should imagine that the nameHermeshas to do with speech, and signifies that he is the interpreter (hermeneus), or messenger, or thief, or liar, or bargainer; all that sort of thing has a great deal to do with language. As I was telling you, the wordeireinis expressive of the use of speech, and there is an often-recurring Homeric wordemesato, which means “he contrived.” Out of these two words,eireinandmesasthai, the legislator formed the name of the god who invented language and...

  9. List of Contributors
    (pp. 395-396)
  10. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 397-398)
  11. Index
    (pp. 399-406)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 407-407)